Helen Levitt is an American photographer who was particularly noted for her street photography around New York City, and has been called “the most celebrated and least known photographer of her time.”
Born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Levitt spent her entire life in New York, capturing snapshots of everyday life in the city streets.
In the late 1940s, Levitt made two documentary films with Janice Loeb and James Agee: In The Street (1948) and The Quiet One (1948). Levitt, along with Loeb and Sidney Meyer’s, received an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay of The Quiet One. Levitt was active in film making for nearly 25 years; her final film credit is as an editor for John Cohen’s documentary The End of an Old Song (1972).
In 1959 and 1960, Levitt received two Guggenheim Foundation grants to take color photographs on the streets of New York, then decided to return to still photography. In 1965 she published her first major collection, A Way of Seeing. Much of her work in color from the 1960s was stolen in a 1970 burglary of her East 13th Street apartment. The remaining photos, and others taken in the following years, can be seen in the 2005 book Slide Show: The Color Photographs of Helen Levitt. In 1976, she was a Photography Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts.